I just returned from my 40th college reunion where we all shared stories of the successes and challenges in our careers, the changes in our families and overall status of our lives with dear friends and former classmates. It was interesting to hear the “elevator pitches” made by each person with the two to three most significant aspects of their lives…the bullet points they would be known for until the next reunion.
How would you want to be remembered? What would your bullet points be?
My dear friend and mentor Frank Sonnenberg has just written his ninth book of inspiring life advice, called The Path to a Meaningful Life. As with his prior books, each page is an inspiration. It can be read cover to cover or, as I did, just one lesson at time and then reflect on it. Frank has given me special permission to share the book’s introduction “How Do You Want to Be Remembered?” which I thought was perfect as I bask in the glow of the reunion.
While many people profess not to care what others think, we’re social creatures and want to fit in. Right? But winning acceptance should never take precedence over accepting yourself. Given that, one of the best ways to identify who you want to be is by asking yourself, “How do I want to be remembered?” Mark Twain said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you understand why.”
You may be thinking, “Who cares. I’m too busy.” While that’s understandable, if you wait too long to identify your destination, you’ll never really know if you’re heading off course. While you’re busy, life happens.
Be remembered for things that matter.
Live the Way You Want to Be Remembered
If there’s a meaningful gap between who you are and who you aspire to be, ask yourself why. Do you arbitrarily set priorities, make choices, or act without intention? Remember, if you don’t have a goal in mind, you can’t expect to achieve it.
Take a moment to think about how you want to be remembered. Which of the following 20 traits best describe the desired you?
- She brings out the best in others and makes them feel special.
- He always puts others’ needs ahead of his own.
- She practices her faith every day, not only on Sundays.
- He stands up for people who can’t stand up for themselves.
- She is fiercely patriotic—and never takes freedom for granted.
- He made it to the top, yet he never forgot his roots.
- She had it tough, but she never gave up.
- He always finds time for folks, even when he’s busy.
- She’s incredibly successful but never flaunts it.
- He has a work ethic that’s second to none.
- She is tough, but she’s always fair.
- He sets high expectations for others—and himself.
- She really steps up when friends need someone in their corner.
- He never has a bad thing to say about anyone.
- She’s always appreciative. She never takes things for granted.
- He never misses his kid’s ball game or dance recital.
- She’s authentic. She doesn’t pretend to be someone she’s not.
- He knows he’s good but doesn’t rub it in your face.
- She’s brutally honest. She tells it like it is.
- He treats the janitor with the same respect that he gives his boss.
Do You Want to Impress Others or to Be Impressive?
Do you want to be remembered as a loving spouse, dedicated parent, trusted friend, proud citizen, valuable worker, selfless leader, positive role model, thoughtful neighbor, caring family member, faithful follower of the Almighty, or a happy and fulfilled individual? None of these will happen unless your priorities, choices, and actions are aligned with your goals. While that may seem obvious to you, it may not actually be happening in your life. Therefore, create a plan to close the gap between who you are and who you aspire to be.
Are you spending time on things that are urgent or on things that are important?
Who are you? What are the values that define you? If you don’t know the real you, it may be time to give that some thought. After all, wouldn’t it be sad to spend your whole life with someone you never really got to know? What mark do you want to make on the world? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Make a conscious effort to live a life that makes you happy, one in which you make a difference, and one that makes you proud. You have an opportunity to define your life as you see fit, or to go with the flow and let it be defined for you. As Jessie Potter, educator and counselor, said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” The choice is yours. Is the world a better place because you were here to grace it? If so, bravo! If not, make sure you don’t waste the time you have left. Live your purpose and make your soul smile.
This is an excerpt from The Path to a Meaningful Life by Frank Sonnenberg.
Frank Sonnenberg is an award-winning author and a well-known advocate for moral character, personal values and personal responsibility. He has written nine books and has been named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Frank’s newest book, The Path to a Meaningful Life, was released June 14, 2022. Additionally, his blog—“FrankSonnenbergOnline”—was recently named one of the “Top Self-Improvement and Personal Development Blogs” in the world.